Activity indicators were weaker than expected in February, driven by sequential monthly declines across all groups. Manufacturing presented a 3.6% YoY contraction (1.2% fall in January), below market consensus of -1.5%, and our call of -1.9%, dragged by the 19.1% chemical production drop. At the margin, manufacturing fell by 2.3% (SA) after rising by 2.6% in January. Meanwhile, mining fell 1% MoM/SA, building on the 0.7% fall in January, resulting in a 1.7% YoY increase (+3% in January). Overall industrial production (grouping manufacturing, mining and utilities) contracted 1.1% YoY (+0.7% in January; 1.5% MoM/SA decline). Real retail sales (including vehicles) also fell sequentially, by 0.6% MoM/SA, leading to a 9.2% drop over twelve months (-10.4% in January), in line with market consensus and slightly below our call of -9.2%. Overall, the data suggests the economy continues to weaken. We expect a mild sequential drop for the monthly GDP proxy (IMACEC; April 3), leading to a null annual variation (0.0% in January).
During the quarter ending in February, real retail sales and manufacturing continued to contract. Durable retail sales fell 8.4% YoY (10.1% decline in 4Q22), while non-durables dropped 10.9% YoY (13.6% fall in 4Q22). With this, total retail sales in the quarter ending in February fell 10.4% YoY (12.8% contraction in 4Q). Meanwhile, industrial production fell 0.6% YoY (-3.5% in 4Q22), with manufacturing continuing to be an important drag (falling 3.1% YoY; 7.1% down in 4Q).
Retail activity continues to fall sequentially, but at a slower rate. Manufacturing increased 3.6% qoq/saar, partly offsetting the 11.6% decline in 4Q. Total industrial production rose 3.6% qoq/saar (+2.8% in 4Q). Retail sales contracted 5.4% qoq/saar, following on from the 10.3% decline in 4Q22.
While sectorial data for February surprised to the downside, they confirm a gradual correction in economic activity, in the aftermath of several upside surprises in recent months. We expect a GDP contraction of 0.7% this year (2.4% last year), with risks tiled to a smaller contraction.
Andrés Pérez M.
Ignacio Martinez Labra